Lowell City Council Meeting: November 1, 2016

(I was unable to watch the meeting live on Tuesday but just caught an archival showing on LTC’s website; here are my notes).

Parking Report

Councilor Samaras asks if City’s Parking Director will speak about the three strategies in the report: (1) additional garages; (2) parking resource management (using existing spaces more efficiently); transportation management (finding other ways besides cars to get people around). He recommends the city hire a parking consultant to develop a strategic plan. While it could be done in-house, it would be more efficient and valuable to have an outsider do it. Manager Murphy says such a consultant will cost approximately $100,000, but when you think of the millions we might spend on parking garages, it will be money well spent.

Use of School Facilities

Councilor Mercier disputes the truthfulness of the report on how school facilities (mostly gyms) are allocated. She and Councilor Elliott state that Lowell residents should have priority of use. The council refers this to the council’s Facilities Subcommittee. Prompted by Councilor Rourke, Manager Murphy says his sense of the meeting they had with the school department that is the basis of this report was that the school department felt like the schools were their domain and would like everyone else to stay out of it. Murphy concurred that having it before a council subcommittee might lead to more equitable use of the facilities.

Council votes to cancel council meetings of November 29, December 20, and December 27, 2016.

Motion by Councilors Leary and Milinazzo to get LRTA and UMass Lowell to start coordinating their routes and assets, particularly between the Gallagher Terminal and the UMass Lowell campuses. Councilor Leary says making our public transit more useful and efficient will help with the parking issues. He says there are two big bus providers in Lowell and they should do some coordination.

Motion by Councilor Elliott that the manager review the administrative appeal process for the Board of Appeals. Residents may speak at public hearings but once the public hearing is closed, the matter is treated as “administrative review” which means that members of the public have no further opportunity to speak. Residents who speak on this matter ask that the city clarify when a matter is placed in “administrative review” and what is the citizen appeal process of that decision. (This arises out of the case of a former nursing home in Pawtucketville that was granted permission to build apartments). Referred to law department and city manager for a report.

Motion by Councilor Elliott for update on Tanner and Plain Street realignment. Manager Murphy says the city is working very closely with the VFW to do an acceptable eminent domain taking and that the city will have a report for the council soon.

Motion by Councilor Samaras asking city for a report from Winn Development on their housing assets throughout the city broken down by percentage of market rate vs affordable housing. Councilor Belanger says he is interested in the information, but feels that if Winn does the study on its own, it might not be unbiased, so he would like the city’s DPD to assist in the study.

Motion by Councilor Leahy that manager work with all departments to become more efficient in monitoring external contracts. (He’s looking at things done by subcontractors that might be done by city employees in-house).